Veterans Suffering from PTSD Have Trouble Finding Service and Therapy Dogs

Orvis Cover Dog Contest - Brownie

Brownie serves as a K9 Therapy Dog; a shortage of trained service and
therapy dogs is creating frustration for veterans suffering from PTSD.

photo courtesy Sandra, Hertford

On Monday, we posted about the differences between service dogs and therapy dogs, as well as how the law treats each. Yesterday, an Associated Press story revealed how such issues are affecting veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who would like a dog to help with their symptoms. They are faced with several problems, including finding a suitable dog trained by a Veterans Administration-approved program, as well as dealing with the VA’s changing rules about who pays for the dog:

Exacerbating the situation are several recent actions by the VA, including a decision against covering the cost of service dogs for PTSD and traumatic brain injuries until a study on the scientific benefits can be completed — a study that has itself been plagued with potential delays and problems, including issues with aggression of some of the participating dogs.

Over the past couple of years, we have posted many stories about how dogs have helped recovering veterans, yet the VA doesn’t seem to accept such powerful anecdotal evidence.

There are also disagreements within the service-dog world about training methods and the suitability of using shelter dogs. Shelter-dog advocates say that there simply aren’t enough traditional service dogs to fill the demand, with so many soldiers returning from combat over the last decade.

In the meantime, wounded warriors are caught in the middle of a bureaucratic nightmare and dog-training debates that mean nothing to them, all of which may only exacerbate their symptoms. It would be great if the VA could be out in front of these issues, rather than adding to the confusion. What do you think can be done to help the situation?

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